Google and Boston Dynamics’ latest robot is now going through basic training with the US Marine Corps, which recently recruited the robodog for field trials, reports Ars Technica. Spot, the hydraulic-articulated four-legged robot, was unveiled earlier this year. Unlike its bulkier predecessors, the Spot quadruped can trot on a smooth surface, navigate a variety of terrain with ease and maintain its balance even when being kicked.
The Marines often test new robotic systems for their ability to provide field infantry support, including such as the GUSS autonomous vehicle from TORC Robotics and the GuardBot amphibious drone. Not surprisingly, the Marine are interested in evaluating Spot, which is lighter and more maneuverable than most other quadruped robots.
A team of roboticists from DARPA accompanied the Boston Dynamics robot to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia where the robot worked alongside soldiers in several test combat situations. Spot was required to scramble over rocky hills, walk through woods and make its way around an urban environment. Spot also acted as a scout, a role often filled by a working dog. In these tests, Spot entered a building before the Marines with the goal of identifying any potential threats.
Besides its uncanny ability to scramble over obstacles, Spot also is safe to operate as it is wirelessly controlled using a game controller connected to a laptop computer. While the robot is exploring a dangerous area, the operator can remain at a safe distance, controlling the robot up to 500 feet away. The operator also does not need a line of sight for the controls to work — a useful feature that allows the robot to move along the optimal trajectory necessary to complete its mission.
Spot performed well, exceeding the metrics provided for the trials, said Captain James Pineiro, who heads the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab on the Quantico base. The robot not only passed its combat trials, but it also earned the support of the Marines it was serving. Pineiro told a Defense Media Activity reporter that the Marines “were very receptive to the new technology” and “came up with new ideas we couldn’t even dream up.”